Only a Dog

Kalindi Charan Panigrahi (2 July 1901 – 15 May 1991), is regarded as one of the greatest versatile literature of 20th century Odia literature world. He was at once an Odia poet, novelist, story writer, dramatist, and essayist. He was members of the Sabuja Gosthi (Green Community of Orissan Poets) of 20th century. He was a Influenced by the romantic thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, during the thirties when the progressive Marxist movements was in full flow in Oriya Literature. However he wrote his famous novel Matira Manisha, being influenced by Gandhism. He was for a period, the editor of English Journals, Bhanja Pradipa and Mayurbhanja Chronicle. This great man’s pen never stopped till his death. His Auto-Biography ‘Jaha Ange Nivaichi’ is an unforgettable contribution to the literary treasure of Orissa. 

He was honoured with the fellowship of Sahitya Academy in 1971. In the same year, he was honoured with Padma Bhushan by Government of India. In 1976, Sambalpur University conferred on him honorary D. Litt. degree. In 1980, he received an award and citation from the IFMA Trust. His major works include, poems – Jadu Ghara, Puri Mandira and Mahadipa; novels - Matira Manisha (1934), Luhara Manisha, Amarachita and Mukta Gadara Kshudha; short Stories – Dvadashi, Rashi Phala, Shesha Rashmi and Sagarika; dramas – Padmini and Pridarshi. “Only a dog” is a very touching short story written by him in Odia language titled “Manshara bilaapa” or cries of the flesh. The present stroy is the translation from the original Odia story by the author himself published by the “Contemporary Indian Short Stories” series.

Only a Dog

Jolly and Albion were friends from childhood. On no account would they remain apart from each other. Albion was an English greyhound, his ancestors hailing from England; hence his name. Jolly was an antelope from the wilds of Odisha. Albion was thoroughly carnivorous and Jolly a strict vegetarian. 

Jolly fell ill and Albion stayed near her day and night-so much so that he had to be given food there by her side. Albion once broke his leg. Jolly, being well aware of his immense physical strength, was at a loss to make out the reason for his long confinement. She lavished all her affection on Albion. Albion came round at last-as though healed by Jolly’s nursing and began walking slowly. But when the spring came, bringing along its great floral wealth, the two friends played about and ran like mad in the direction of the south wind, to explore as it were, the mysterious world whence this stream of delight came flooding. As he ran Albion appeared like a thread straightened out on the ground, with his limbs hardly to be distinguished from his body. But Jolly’s race was a veritable Paris dance. Her legs seemed to float over the surface of the ground. She was simply dancing on the air. 

The Zamindar was very fond of the two animals. When, after the day’s heavy work, he came out for a stroll on the extensive lawn in front of his office, these two creatures amused him with their sportive movements. As the master walked on, Jolly robbed her long neck against his legs and licked his hands. If Albion remained behind, he came swiftly running ahead, prostrated before his master, waving his tail submissively. Sometimes he found his way in between his two legs and thus made him slacken his pace. 

If other dogs appeared, looking greedily at Jolly, she would shrink back with fear and take shelter by her master’s side. Then Albion would come forward, prepared to fight his kinsfolk, who would meekly retire with tails tucked in between their legs. They were not unaware of Albion’s great strength. He too held his prestige high, for he disdained to pursue a running dog. 

Another friend of Jolly and Albion was Zamindar’s beloved daughter. She passed most of her time with the two animals. With an ayah in charge of her, she plucked soft blades of grass from the garden when Jolly came with slow steps and gently presented her mouth to the girl. Albion too swiftly followed his companion and displayed diverting tricks to please his little mistress. 

Swinging in his easy chair in the verandah the zamindar watched the sportive\pranks of his pets and his care-worn heart filled with joy. He was a man of up-to-date ideas, pleasant and polite in his manners. He dressed as occasion required, appearing in pure ‘Swadeshi’ kurta and chadar before his countrymen, and in a smart European suit before foreigners. European officers of rank would come during holidays for shikar in the jungles of his estate. To them his friendly doors were ever open. A well-equipped guest house had been specially erected for the purpose. He was equally hospitable towards his educated and respectable tenants, and they never failed to receive courteous treatment from him. Notwithstanding this, the opinion of the public in general was not very favourable to him. He was degraded and irreligious according to the orthodox, and was accused by others of being a reckless and extravagant oppressor. Above all, his close contact with Europeans and his adoption of some of their customs had impaired his many virtues in the eyes of his countrymen. In fact his food and dress were greatly influenced by European habits and he lacked the moderation people thought necessary in this respect. 

The Deputy Inspector-General of police, an old friend, had sent word that he was coming during the ensuing Christmas for a shikar excursion with his wife and children. So the guest house was ready and tents were pitched in the forest for four days ahead of their arrival. Men were sent to Cuttack to purchase the necessary articles. The servants and officials had not even a moment’s respite, and showers of abuse from everyone poured on the zamindar- behind his back, of course. 

He motored some way to receive the distinguished visitors. The sahib arrived in time, the host appeared mightily pleased as he joined his friend, his wife and daughters. The programme was fixed. The visitors spent the night in the guest house and proposed to start for the forest after breakfast, the next morning. 

The place for shikar was about fourteen miles away from the zamindar’s house. There was scarcely any human habitation in the neighbourhood. Khansamas and servants had left in advance with articles of food and other things. The guests, the zamindar, the D.I.G.’s two hunting dogs and the zamindar’s pets, Albion and Jolly, went in a motor car after them. It was hardly necessary to take Jolly along, but Albion would be of great help during the shikar and Jolly was taken only to keep Albion in good cheer. For he would always seek to run back to her whenever he got an opportunity. As a matter of formality, the little mistress’ consent was also obtained for their absence. She had strictly enjoined on her father that her playmates were not to be detained for more than three days. 

However, five days passed quickly amidst the mirth and jollity of a merry Christmas. In that solitary jungle the guests were so well served that the seclusion seemed sweet after the din and bustle of the town. After lunch on the fifth day the zamindar and the D.I.-G. started for the shikar. For the last four days the ladies had been entertained with dances and songs in the evening and were too tired to accompany the men. The servants too were worn out with toil, but two or three of them had to accompany the shikaris. 

Having missed once or twice, they frightened all the birds away so that they had to wait for them to return. So the shikaris entered the adjoining forest. They wandered about for some time-but to no purpose. The servants were sent out in quest of prey. None could tell, though, whether or not they sat gossiping or lighted their cheroots or prepared tobacco powder with their thumbs pressed on their palms! The two friends stealthily and cautiously searched thicket after thicket. And all unawares they had come to a distance of some four miles away from the camp. 

The day was at its end. The sun had hidden itself behind the nearest hill; its crimson streaks were diffused across the western sky, unnoticed by the shikaris, who were greedily seeking for the flesh of some living animals. A huge dark cloud appeared over the eastern horizon. With their eyes fixed on the ground, what concern had they with the sky? The servants saw the impeding danger and set out in search of their masters. It would have been hard to find them even in broad daylight in that thick jungle. 

The two friends were lost in the darkness. They turned back only when the cool breeze of the approaching rain became too cool to be ignored. The clouds were gathering thicker and darker. It was impossible to cover four miles and reach the tent before the rain set in. Helpless, they started a ‘double march’ with the rifles on their shoulders, but with none of the happy mood of a shikari chasing a terrified deer. The storm came upon them with all its fury. It was dark all around and the sound of the wind in the jungle was eerie. They traced their way back with much caution and difficulty. Sodden to the marrowbone and panting for breath, they entered the tent at last. It was eight o’clock at night. 

There had been no arrangements for dinner, for they had counted on finding game. But unfortunately not a bird had been shot. It had been settled, moreover, that they would leave the place on the morrow. The zamindar’s home was about fourteen miles away from the camp. Was it at all possible in this howling storm and rain to get food from such a distance? 

The motor-track must have become quite inaccessible with rain water. There was no place nearby where suitable food for the sahib and the zamindar could be had. Everybody grew worried as to what to do. Before starting in quest of shikar the zamindar had wanted to make some arrangements about meat for the dinner, but the sahib had dissuaded him and assured him that they would not fail to find game. What was to be done now? For no fault of theirs the zamindar made the poor servants the target of his anger. 

Suddenly the sahib beamed. “Let me devise something for dinner,” he offered. 
“Well?” Muttered the host with a forced smile. 
“Would you mind?” asked the sahib. “It’ll make a sumptuous feast and you can have the animal replaced easily. Don’t you like the idea?”
At first the zamindar did not catch what the sahib had in mind. He shuddered when the sahib finished his speech, and could only mumble in a hurry: “Oh, yes, ‘tis a fine idea.” He could not disagree with the proposal of his esteemed friend and guest, but at the mention of jolly’s name his heart began to pound violently. 

Jolly had a pathetic history, and it was largely because of it that the zamindar was so very attached to her. He had happened to come by her originally while displaying his skill in shooting before an European friend. She was then suckling her mother. The mother fell at the zamindar’s shot and the hapless little orphan stood dumbfounded. When the zamindar’s man approached her she did not even stir, for she was sure that her mother was at her side. Her innocent look went to the zamindar’s heart and he became attached to the creature. Never had he dreamt that a day would come when he would have to slaughter her for his own food. But should such a noble guest be refused? 

The sahib rejoiced at his host’s approval and was exceedingly glad at the thought of killing the animal himself. He had a reputation of bloodthirstiness which had own him distinction in the last Great War. In the absence of shikar he would kill some of his own fowls to keep his brain cool. Secretly proud of her husband for this trait, the memsahib would say, teasingly, that once he was about to cut his own throat as he could find nothing else to kill! 

Albion and Jolly slept snuggled against each other’s face. It was not an easy job for a stranger to approach Albion, especially when he was by the side of Jolly. None but Madhiya, the servant, could do that. Madhiya had to fetch Jolly at the instance of his master. Albion woke up and barked at the sound of his footsteps, but Madhiya’s voice reassured him. However when Jolly was being dragged away Albion would not keep quite. He worked himself into a fury and wanted to follow Jolly. At last Madhiya had to yield and lead him along by the chain. 

Incredibly clever though he was, Albion could not guess why Madhiya was forcing Jolly away from him at such an unusual hour. Madhiya himself held Albion and handed over Jolly to the khansamas. This excited suspicion in the mind of Albion but he did not badge an inch. The sahib got himself ready to vent his savage instinct. His knife glittered against the lamp light. He loved to cut the animal up alive instead of wasting a bullet. 

The khansamas had tied Jolly’s feet and held her tight so that she might not move to disturb the execution. What fear had Jolly? She stood still. The zamindar, her loving master and guardian and Albion, the friend in need, were by her side. As her feet were tightly tied down she looked at her dear partner and at her ever-trusted master in turn. The zamindar tried to keep himself engaged in gossiping with his friend’s wife and daughters. Something in him was still urging him to turn his eyes on Jolly. He occupied himself in laughter and mirth and seemed heedless of Jolly. At the slightest turn of his eyes on her, he feared the animal would expose his innermost secret and accuse him with human speech. 

Albion’s suspicion was strengthened as he saw the knife in the sahib’s hand. The D.I.G. cleaned the knife and rose from his seat. Unwittingly the zamindar’s eye fell on Jolly, and it struck him that she had been praying for mercy. That wistful, pitiable look! Suddenly he got up and went inside the tent on some pretext. But Albion could understand Jolly’s entreaties. When she turned her disappointed look from her master to her beloved friend it touched him to the quick. The intention of the sahib, as he advanced knife in hand, became clear in a flash to Albion. He had seen the slaughter of many a goat and deer on the very spot. And now his dearest one was to meet the same fate! He gave a strong tug at the chain and in the twinkling of an eye freed himself from the hold of Madhiya and attacked one of the knansamas. The sahib and the servants ran helther-skelther towards the tent. The zamindar was sitting abscent-mindedly inside the tent. He hastened to make his excuse to his guests, and flew into a rage at Madhiya. But his words were dearly more expressive of the anguish of his heart than of his anger. 

Madhiya who was hurt by Albion fastened him tight to a tree. Again the D.I.G. came smiling, knife in hand mockingly he held the knife at poor Albion and then advanced towards Jolly. Again the zamindar stole a glance at Jolly and found her praying for help with the same entreating eyes. He got up and was about to say something to his host, when he restrained himself. “Alas!” he said to himself, “Am I mad?” He took his seat again and thought of running away from the scene. But lest the sahib should take it amiss, he gave up the idea and quietly sat as before. To avoid the sight he hid his face with a kerchief. Albion’s heart-rending cry assailed his ears. Through this cry the doleful moaning of a choking voice was heard. It penetrated his heart. It was Jolly’s voice! He took the kerchief off his face and found that all was over. 

At the dinner table his soul cried out to him not to partake of Jolly’s flesh. It was with an inward struggle that he could join in the conviviality and with great difficulty he swallowed a bit. Absorbed in thoughts he stepped into the bedroom, but he could not sleep. He saw himself wandering from one jungle to another-a storm and darkness coming on- that memorable noon- the mother falling down with the bullet wound and the innocent young one standing stock-still, not the least bit afraid. Then again that pitch darkness- the friends startling towards the camp with rifles on their shoulders- the devilish laughter of the sahib, knife in hand, and Jolly’s prayer for life! 

They returned home at daybreak. His guests, happy with the entertainment, took their leave the same day. Madhiya came breathless, dragging Albion all the way, to report to the master that the dog had struggled hard not to leave the spot. The master was sitting alone in a pensive mood. Without another word Madhiya left quietly. The zamindar was undergoing feelings of deep penitence. Up till now he had contained himself by an act of will, or otherwise he would have behaved as a madman. Someone was him from within to fall at the feet of his common cure as it were, urging, and ask for his pardon. He felt himself meaner than Albion. “Alas! Is my heart so murderous and vile! Am I more heinous, more abominable than this carnivorous thing! Fie- fie on me! Is the strong meant to keep the weak in bondage and to destroy it for his own existence? Must one be killed because another is to live?” 

A voice called aloud from behind, “Where’s Jolly?” He turned round to see his four-year-old daughter. He could not find an adequate reply to her query, he got up in haste and pressed the child to his bosom, imploring her, “She is there, my darling, she is!” But the child would not listen. She pulled a long face and said, puckering her lips, “You lie! Madhiya says the sahib has killed her. I shall kill the sahib.” 

The father could not suppress his emotion at the anger and sorrow of his little child and tears ran down his cheeks.. Throwing himself upon the bed he began to weep bitterly. But the query “Where’s Jolly” arose in his mind times without number. He put the same question to himself and looked at his own person. The painful moan of each piece of Jolly’s flesh he had swallowed was shooting through all the pores of his skin. He was laid up with fever for two weeks, and his condition grew critical. But he recovered- it was, rather, a resurrection! The guest house built for Europeans was turned into a shelter for the sick and the destitute. Animal food was strictly forbidden in the zamindar’s house and orders were passed prohibiting hunting or killing of deer within the borders of his estate. 

Albion would not touch anything. He fasted the whole day and when zamindar fell ill he managed to get away. Madhiya went in search of him and hound him nosing the spot where Jolly had been done to death. It was there that he had lost his dearest companion. He was brought back but all care taken of him proved of no avail. Once again he spirited himself away and was not to be found anywhere. 

Some say that he went in the direction where the tent had been pitched; but the woodcutters say that they hear the wail of an animal while felling trees in the forest. But whose may that voice be? Jolly’s or Albion’s? 

Courtesy- Sahitya Academy 



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